Harnessing energy from human waste 'shouldn't be poo-pooed'

Power from human waste is 'the ultimate in green energy' that would cut the UK's dependence on fossil fuels and dramatically reduce CO2 emissions.

Breaking down human waste into methane and using the biogas to generate electricity could be a cheap alternative to nuclear power plants

Breaking down human waste into methane and using the biogas to generate electricity could be a cheap alternative to nuclear power plants

That's according to British waste management and recycling firm Business Waste which has called for more power to be generated from the 20,000 tonnes of human excrement produced in the UK every day.

Company spokesperson Mark Hall said: "People might get a bit squeamish about the thought that they're heating their home with poo, but reclaimed energy is just the same no matter where it comes from."

Hall argues that breaking down human waste into methane and using the biogas to generate electricity could be a cheap alternative to nuclear power plants, saving the UK billions in infrastructure costs.

As well as the cost-savings, biomethane created through anaerobic digestion (AD) can cut emissions by up to 95% if it replaces diesel oil to generate power.

'Cleaner and greener'

"The key is cutting down CO2 emissions and as long as carbon dioxide is captured during the biogas creation process, it becomes one of the cleanest bulk energies around," added Hall.

Business Waste estimates that the faeces produced by 200 people can power a television for an hour, 250 people to boil a kettle and 50 people to keep a light bulb switched on for an hour. "That's a lot of power that could replace both nuclear and fossil fuel generators and it is cleaner and greener," Hall said.  

There are limited schemes already running and parts of Birmingham already use electricity generated from human waste. One business example is that of Southern Water, which last year invested £700k in a new Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant at its Sandown works, which harnesses human waste to reduce CO2 emissions by around 1,400 tonnes a year.

Hall concluded: "It's come to something that even human waste can be seen as a valuable commodity and now is not the time for 'NIMBYs' to complain about green projects and raise scare stories about poo-power. Poo could be keeping our lights switched on."

Lois Vallely


Tags

anaerobic digestion | CO2

Topics

Waste & resource management
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